Byline: by Matilda Goad
George Clooney, Patrick Dempsey, Max Beesley, Jeremy Sheffield - the list of sexy TV doctors is long and near its top is Julian Rhind-Tutt, Dr 'Mac' Macartney from Green Wing. The comedy series took hospital drama to a surreal plane turning Dr Mac, with his shabby red-blond curls and on-off affair with Tamsin Greig's character Dr Caroline Todd, into an unlikely sex symbol. Looking at him now, with his leather biker jacket and blue steel gaze, he is certainly attractive. He exudes a gentle energy, although this could be because he's been up since 5am filming an episode of Poirot.
It's been three years since Green Wing ended and Julian has popped his head over the parapet since as Noakes in BBC Four's supernatural miniseries Crooked House, as the villainous Monks in the BBC's 2007 adaptation of Oliver Twist, Alistair in Philip Pullman's The Shadow in the North, and a conductor in the CBBC children's comedy series Uncle Max.
Meanwhile he has been building a property business and the rest of his time is taken up practising magic tricks for his new play, Darker Shores, at the Hampstead Theatre. Written by an old university friend, Michael Punter, and co-starring Tom Goodman-Hill from the recent sell-out production of Enron, it is a ghost story in which Julian plays an American spiritualist.
'He's drawn very closely from Mike's research on the spiritualists of the time, who were precursors to modern magicians and realised that if they could impress the right people, they could make a lot of money,' Julian explains, as he is tucked into a booth in the King William IV pub in Hampstead. 'So this guy has come over from America, having fought in the Civil War, and is trying to infiltrate London society.'
Has he had many ghostly encounters himself? 'No, I'm a bit low on supernatural experiences.' He takes a sip of his lime and soda. 'But I have seen Andy Nyman, who works a lot with Derren Brown, and he used to do a brilliant seance in the [Clerkenwell] House of Detention and that was one of the most exciting and scary things I've seen.'
It is 12 years since Julian, now 41, gave up a career in theatre 'to be paid more money and have somebody hold an umbrella over your head while you mumble a few lines into a camera'. In Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) he was 'annihilated on a frigate before the theme tune came in'. In Notting Hill (1999) he was a Time Out hack who stood next to Hugh Grant: 'I was in it for a matter of seconds but it was such a successful film that to this day people still remember me from it.' A lead role that same year in the Channel 4 sitcom Hippies with Simon Pegg and Sally Phillips, by the creators of Father Ted, followed. Finally, in 2001, he found himself watching Angelina Jolie rehearse Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (in which he had a small role) 'and being in the privileged position for a few hours of watching her do quite a lot of subtle, interesting, intelligent acting and see that being edited into shots of her mouth and her tits and her arse'.
Then in 2004 came Green Wing. Women really responded to Dr Mac. 'I suppose so,' he concedes. 'But Tamsin's a very popular actress and there was a very well-written triangle, so I was in good company. I could see Stephen Mangan being incredibly funny and brilliantly horrible, and Tamsin was so lovely, so I just had to slide into the third part of that triangle and not mess it up.' But people just loved Green Wing, didn't they? He nods. 'It's one of those shows where it actually finished more than three years ago but people still come up and ask when the next one is and if it's carrying on. It did stick in people's minds. It was a different vibe and strange at the beginning, but we always knew that the things we were doing were making us laugh and so we thought there was likely to be a positive outcome. …